COVID-19 Fragments Aren’t Infectious

“At the time of writing, the UK records 1750 new cases daily and one death in a population of 67 million. With a roughly similar population and an average of 602 cases a day, Italy has had just over four deaths a day over the last month. The ratio of cases to deaths is nowhere near what it was at the height of the pandemic. The other notable feature is a shift of cases to a younger population. There can be several explanations for this trend. … A fourth possible and much more complex explanation is what we call the ‘reality problem’. PCR [polymerase chain reaction] is a very sensitive test, which means that it detects the smallest fragments of the virus it is looking for by amplifying the sample millions of times. However, a fragment is not a whole virus, capable of replication and of infecting other human beings. It is a small part of the viral structure that the PCR primer is looking for, not the whole microorganism. Only whole viruses can infect us. You would expect all of this to be reported in a PCR results but it is not routinely done. There is worse news to come. A very sensitive test is vulnerable to contamination with extraneous genetic material (hence the need for suiting up operators). The rapid expansion of testing capacity may have degraded our capacity for sterility by increasing throughput and straining lab staff training. Evidence is mounting that a good proportion of ‘new’ mild cases and people re-testing positives after quarantine or discharge from hospital are not infectious, but are simply clearing harmless virus particles which their immune system has efficiently dealt with. So, we appear to have the reality of viral circulation, probably waning fast and the perceived reality of a misused and simply interpreted genial test.”

“Coronavirus cases are mounting but deaths remain stable,” by Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson of Oxford University, The Spectator, Sept. 1, 2020